As the College’s resident astronomer and Head of Studies, no two days are the same for science teacher Andrew Millar. We check in with him below to talk about his passion for science, rockstar alter ego, and nights spent stargazing on campus.
Why did you choose to be a teacher?
I had a good school experience myself and thought that a career in teaching would suit my interests and strengths. Thirty years later, I still wake up every morning raring to go. Every day brings such different experiences.
What do you love about being a teacher?
In a nutshell, teaching. For me, going to class is the highlight of each school day. Sharing my love of science (particularly physics) with students. It is a wonderful story. Working with young people is a joy. Their energy keeps me young and vibrant (well I think so).
I have been very fortunate throughout my career to have had many wonderful opportunities and memorable experiences, and these things keep me energised and enthusiastic about what I do.
If you couldn’t be a teacher, what would you do with your time?
If not an astronomer then probably a rock ‘n‘ roll star.
What is a typical day like as Head of Studies at Newington?
Days are busy and vibrant, as there is much interaction with boys, parents and staff. I have a line-up of boys to see each morning before school, usually to discuss their academic progress or whether they should drop a subject from their program, or to explore ways to improve their study routines. I really enjoy this aspect of the role. Various staff members, including the Heads of Department will also drop in throughout the day to discuss upcoming assessment tasks and schedules. There are regular meetings with key staff members across the school. And of course I go to class a couple of times each day. I also enjoy getting out onto the ovals after school to train with my 15D’s rugby team.
What’s something they don’t warn you about teaching?
Unfortunately those days are too far back for me to remember.
What is it about science that you love?
It’s objectivity in seeking answers to questions about the Universe. Also, the sense of awe and fascination it inspires in people. It really is amazing that we know as much as we do. I particularly enjoy reading about the history of science throughout the ages; how theories have evolved and developed and the key characters who by genius, collaboration or good fortune have shaped the laws and principles we use today.
You’ve been running Stargazing at the College lately – what exciting things have the boys spotted through the telescope so far?
On, cold, clear nights we can get good access to quite a few iconic southern sky objects, including the Orion Nebula, the Jewel Box star cluster and a very old globular star cluster called Omega Centauri. Of course, the planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus are always favourites along with the Moon whose cratering looks quite spectacular through the telescope. Unfortunately viewing opportunities have been less frequent since the COVID pandemic began. We have had one good viewing night this year.
What is something about you that people don’t know or might be surprised by?
I have been playing guitar for 45 years (started very young of course) and used to be a regular one-man-band performer at a hotel in Windsor for several years. Something like a fusion between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. That involved entertaining the local turf farmers every Friday night.
What has been your favourite memory at Newington?
There have been several! But, I’ll go with these: The Retreat and Valedictory Day with my Year 12 Mentor Group in 2019; Tonga Tour 2019; and of course, the Stargazing nights on the Science terrace.